“LESS-LETHAL” : EDC FOR THE ARMED?

TakeawaySimple answer: Yes, less-lethal (impact, aerosol chemical, conducted energy) should be considered as a possible EDC adjunct to being armed. If you choose to carry less-lethal, get initial and periodic refresher training from a professional credentialed for the particular type/brand less-lethal weapon. Be prepared to articulate what you chose to carry (likely OC) and why. Update your knowledge base at least yearly for usage studies and legal developments, and to consider any product improvement.  If you choose not to carry less-lethal, be prepared to articulate why not. Whichever way you go, expect that somebody, maybe someone whose opinion matters, will second guess you.

Caveat “Less-lethal” does not mean never lethal.   It refers to a weapon which is not normally considered the use of deadly force because it is not designed or intended, nor is it likely, to kill or result in “permanent injury.” The phrase “less-than-lethal” is often used to refer to these weapons.

Now that we have the answer to the post’s title question (to my satisfaction), let’s apply my use of deadly force paradigm elements to help you decide whether and how less-lethal might be included in your EDC loadout. Consider what follows an overview directing you to further study.

     CAN: A recommendation for a training protocol is set out above.  If you don’t get training, including threat identification/response, integrating less lethal with handgun, and transitions, Hick’s Law weighs strongly against less-lethal carry.  If you carry less-lethal, suffer its effects.  At least twice.  Take a full day in training when offered. Take the spray, “the ride,” or get into a padded training suit and strike and take blows. Complete the certification (practical and written) test if applicable.  In short, get the “diploma.”  For chemical aerosols, learn decontamination procedures (hint — nothing works instantly, or really well).  The less-lethal of choice for most will be the chemical aerosol. You will likely choose straight OC spray in foam, cone, gel, or stream. Figure out which is best suited to your lifestyle, weather (wind, precipitation), and the most likely scenarios (indoor/outdoor, crowd) it will be used. Try ’em all and pick two to inventory. Use an “inert” canister to learn patterns and range.  Capacity/carry mode choices include pocket clip, belt pouch, key chain, or free drop in pocket.  Activation modes include wing protected open top, flip-cap, and twist lock.  I have used stream and cone on people, and foam on dogs (large and small) with nearly instantaneous result, after a good high face/eye hit from two short side to side bursts.  I carry sizes referred to by several makers as the MK3, 4, and 6. The MK3 and MK4 are larger sizes usually thought of as LE issue size, the MK6 is a thinner plastic canister, with an integral pocket clip. Experiment with both handgun and opposing side carry. Practice spraying from various positions, including a compressed “waist-ready” deployment.  Some canisters operate from any angle.  I use products by three respected manufacturers: Defense Technology (First Defense), Sabre (Red), and FOX Labs. Another, the MACE® brand, has a combination OC/CS tear gas product which has its own following, but may not be legal for carry in your state, even if OC is legal.  Galls is a good source for several brands. (For those who do not want to be seen as a “cop wannabe” who frequents LE vendors, some Sabre products are sold by Amazon). I like an impact alternative, even when I carry OC. The usual impact weapon of choice will be a telescoping/collapsible baton, likely based on a uniformed duty LE platform, but lighter and shorter length (12 or 16-inch) version. Check out the ASP Agent® and Monadnock Detective® Classic. Learn striking, trapping, and control techniques, with the baton collapsed and extended.  Feasible, but non-concealable alternatives are a “walking” stick or large flashlight.  Impact weapon mastery requires a level of strength, dexterity, and agility that OC does not.  And closer (and thus more dangerous) contact with a malefactor.  For conducted energy, you are likely looking at a non-police grade TASER® product,  the C2™ or the X26c™.  I have limited knowledge base and little experience with the civilian-use TASERs. I think they make very good sense for unarmed EDC, despite being a bit complicated (range and cycle time analysis).  For many, they are likely too large to be carried as part of an armed EDC. I have not found enough incident reports in order to evaluate their use by the non-sworn.

     MAY:   Study your state law as it pertains to permitted force other than deadly force. State laws vary greatly on the legality of less-lethal. With regard to TASER® products, begin your research here. Determine the allowed carry mode(s) (concealed, open), and whether and how your “gun” permit covers less-lethal weapons.  In-hand carry prior to deployment is ideal, so determine its legality.  State law preempting counties and cities from passing firearm laws may not apply to less-lethal weapons. There may be restriction on OC size, volume, and/or strength under state or local laws. Determine banned locations (school, church, sterile airport area, police stations, public gathering, official building, hospitals). They may or may not be the same as for firearms. Your state may ban less-lethal weapons as being reserved for LEO use only. A conducted energy weapon may be legal only if it does not shoot a projectile (darts). State law may define non-deadly force to include or exclude the use of a specified type less-lethal.  A less-lethal legal question is whether, when you disable someone, do you then “own them.”  Much of what you read will suggest when you use less-lethal you should immediately leave, retreat, seek safety, etc., to notify the authorities. Little thought is given to whether one is legally obligated to provide for the force recipient’s “safety” until medical or LE personnel arrive.  (Example:  You spray or shock an attacker/robber/road-rager who, because of the disabling effect, falls, walks into vehicular traffic, drowns, or is him/herself the victim of a crime against which defense is not possible because of the disability you caused).  Get local legal input as to possible civil liability, and whether an immunity statute would be applicable.  Find out whether use of less-lethal might constitute animal “abuse” or “cruelty.”  Determine when less-lethal is presumptively lawful for defense of property. Consider whether less-lethal might be deployed akin to a “warning shot,” and that in-hand threatened use is much less likely to evoke criminal charges than similar display of a handgun.

     SHOULD: As I noted in a recent MSW post (HERE), the SHOULD (in the context here, whether or not to carry less-lethal) is, in the end, your decision.  For sure, less-lethal does not evoke the ugly finality and aftermath as does the use of lethal force. Less-lethal is useful if you would waffle on the lawful use of deadly force.  Certainly it is a level of force option you wouldn’t have if you did not carry it. I recognize the strawman nature of the arguments that: the threatened use or deployment of less-lethal can raise the conflict bar and actually contribute to the necessity to threaten or use deadly force, and; less-lethal can be the subject of a disarm and used on its owner.

     MUST: I once went immediately to the gun rather than OC when confronted with a larger, younger, potential assailant with an uplifted conduit bender closing from 35 feet. I knew lethal was legal and that the handgun draw had deterrent effect at distance far superior to the threat or use of less-lethal.  If you or someone you cannot live without is in imminent danger of suffering unlawful great bodily harm or death which cannot be safely avoided, deadly force is the indicated and lawful response. Less-lethal is NOT the weapon solution for such situations.  [Note that when lethal force is lawful, whether by non-sworn or LEO, there is generally no superimposed requirement that less-lethal be tried first. That less-lethal might have worked isn’t part of deadly force analysis. Thus, PO Wilson of Ferguson, Missouri, has been incorrectly criticized for not resorting to less-lethal.  (HERE).  Especially the TASER® he didn’t have].

Disclaimer: No MSW post constitutes particularized legal advice, or creates an attorney-client relationship with a reader.

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About Steven Harris

Steve Harris is an experienced attorney (member of Florida Bar, 1979) who has represented federal agents and local LEOs in duty related matters. He has written and lectured about officer involved shootings, self-defense, and use of force law, including "Stand Your Ground." Steve has been a seasoned and active competitive handgun shooter for over 20 years.

3 thoughts on ““LESS-LETHAL” : EDC FOR THE ARMED?

  1. It should be noted that Hick’s Law is significantly mitigated, perhaps to the point of elimination by the power law of practice. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_law_of_practice

    An aspect of the OC/CS combinations is that while OC can be deconned relatively easily and quickly, CS cannot. In my mind, this contraindicates using an OC/CS combination in the home or vehicle.

  2. I really appreciate the way you organized and formatted this article. You also clearly stated points that have been stated before but frequently forgotten. This us a must-read.

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